LONDON — United Airlines was under fire again Wednesday after a huge rabbit named Simon died while hopping over from London to Chicago, where he was due to be picked up by a celebrity buyer. The valuable 90-centimeter-long continental giant rabbit had previously been described as “fit as a fiddle,” and his death in the cargo section of a Boeing 767 comes as a mystery. “Something very strange has happened and I want to know what,” breeder Annette Edwards, from Worcestershire in central England, told British newspaper The Sun. “Simon had a vet’s checkup three hours before the flight and was fit as a fiddle,” she said, adding: “I’ve sent rabbits all around the world and nothing like this has happened before.” Edwards also revealed that “the client who bought Simon is very famous. He’s upset.” Ten-month-old Simon was expected to grow to become the world’s biggest rabbit, after his father Darius grew to 1.32 meters, Edwards said. According to the breeder such rabbits cost 5,000 pounds (US$6,400) a year to keep.
The incident comes less than three weeks after United Airlines drew global outrage for forcefully dragging a passenger off an overbooked flight. Footage of the April 9 incident captured by fellow passengers went viral on social media. Figures from the U.S. Department of Transportation show that 35 animals died in air transit in 2015, across the country’s 17 main carriers. United Airlines account for nine of those deaths, the highest of all the carriers. It transported over 97,000 animals during that year.